Jayantha Dharmadasa, the Sri Lanka Cricket interim chairman, said that the provincial concept will lift the standard of the domestic game in the country. "It will greatly increase the competitiveness of domestic cricket and help bridge the gap between domestic level and international cricket."
The tournament will commence with the one-day matches on December 26 and will be followed by a Twenty20 tournament then the four-day competition. "These three provincial tournaments will be played annually," said Nishantha Ranatunga, a member of the provincial cricket committee headed by the former Sri Lanka fast bowler Pramodya Wickremasinghe.
The committee also comprises Sidath Wettimuny, the former Test opener and Prasanna Fernando, the former Moratuwa SC player.
Sri Lanka Cricket has been successful in attracting the corporate sector to support the venture and Sri Lanka Telecom has come forward as the title sponsors while five others - Lexmark, E-Wis, Lanka Bell, Hirdaramani and MAS Holdings will be corporate partners.
By playing the provincial tournament SLC is hoping to achieve four goals. By 2008 they hope to have chief operational officers at each provincial centre. By 2010 to have seven provincial teams and centres and to have a minimum of 90 full-time players and finally, for all SLC provincial and district coaching activities to be operated and managed from provincial centres.
The winner of the one-day tournament will receive Rs. 2.5 million and the runner-up Rs. 1 million. In addition, the following prize money is on offer: Player of the Tournament - Rs. 100,000, Player of the Final - Rs. 50,000, Man of the Match (each league match) - Rs. 10,000. Players, including reserves, will receive Rs. 6000 per match day.
Each player will be contracted and specialised coaching sessions will be provided at provincial centres in consultation with provincial and district coaches. Each team will have a full-time coach, physio and manager and will be assigned a national selector.
There will be two Colombo teams: Basnahira North Colombo, led by Chaminda Vaas, based at the Premadasa Stadium, and Basnahira South Colombo, led by Tillekeratne Dilshan, based at Moratuwa. The South (Ruhuna), based in Galle, will be led by Sanath Jayasuriya; the Central (Kandurata) by Kumar Sangakkara, based at the new dry-weather ground in Pallekella; and the North Western area (Wayamba) around Dambulla by Mahela Jayawardena, centred at Welagedera Stadium in Kurunegala.
This isn't the first time such a scheme has been tried. Between 1990 and 1995 tournaments were played but there was a lack of enthusiasm among players. It was briefly revived in 2003-04 for one season when Central Province, led by Muttiah Muralitharan, took the title.